ELLSWORTH — Three municipalities seeking to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) were stunned Aug. 27 to learn there isn’t enough time to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“If we don’t get something tomorrow (Aug. 28) you won’t make the ballot,” said Richard Spencer, the Drummond and Woodsum attorney representing RSU 24.
“We understood it was by (Sept.) 8th,” said Edward Bearor, the Rudman Winchell attorney representing Ellsworth, Lamoine and Hancock.
The exchange occurred at a nearly four-hour meeting at the Mill Mall between the RSU and the three withdrawal committees.
The timing is critical since state law requires that at least 50 percent of the voters, plus one, who voted in the last gubernatorial election, cast ballots on whether or not to remain part of the RSU.
The parties involved in negotiations widely agree it is difficult to garner that level of voter participation other than in a general election.
Spencer said that even if the Department of Education (DOE) tentatively approves a plan — and there is no plan at the ready for any of the three communities —there is a 20-day notification of a public hearing on the proposal.
Following that, the commissioner must set the date for an election, allowing 35 days notification to municipal officials.
The schedule does not include the time the commissioner and his staff need to review the proposal before and after the public hearing.
Gordon Donaldson, chairman of Lamoine’s withdrawal committee, said he didn’t think the 20-day period was required.
“I thought we had more time than what he (Spencer) said,” Donaldson said.